Culture

The 5 most famous urban legends in China

When it comes to Chinese horror stories, foreigners always think of ghosts in ancient Chinese mythology and the famous horror novel Liaozhai Zhiyi in the Qing Dynasty. But in fact, in modern China, some new horror stories have been born in the folk.

There are urban legends all over the world, and this is no exception in China.

On Reddit, r/nosleep and r/creepypasta are the best places to find urban legends in the English-speaking world.

In the early forums of the Chinese Internet and now Baidu Tieba, there are also many people who share urban legends about China.

If you have read The Sinister Way: The Divine and the Demonic in Chinese Religious Culture, written by sinologist Richard von Glahn, you will realize that China has always had a complex set of folk beliefs.

To some extent, it is similar to the Japanese belief system, people do not worship a specific god, but are in awe of any monster, ghost, or strange thing. Although China became an atheist country after 1949, ordinary Chinese have not completely given up this belief.

Some urban legends of modern China were born under this belief system. Although, like most urban legends in the world, they are not credible. But once upon a time, these urban legends even caused real social panic in China.

Almost every Chinese who was born in 1980s to 1990s has heard these stories, even in childhood because of these legends made it difficult to fall asleep.

In the English-speaking world, there seem to be very few articles about Chinese modern urban legends. So today we’re going to talk about five of the most popular.

Beijing No.375 Bus

The No. 375 bus goes through Old Summer Palace, Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing.

In 1990s, this area was still the suburb of Beijing, and after 8 o’clock every night, there were few pedestrians on the street.

One day in November 1995, an old lady boarded the last bus of Beijing No. 375 bus. The old lady looked at the carriage and found that there were only the conductor, the driver and another young male passenger.

She sat down in the empty seat and the bus moved on.

Two more stops later, three new passengers boarded the bus, dressed in Qing Dynasty costumes, with long braids and faces coated with unnatural white powder.

All the people on the bus were startled, but soon regained their composure.

Because costume dramas had just become popular on the Chinese mainland, they thought the three were extras who had just got off work and didn’t have time to take off their costumes.

After a while, the old lady suddenly stood up and shouted, “there is a thief in the bus!
My wallet was stolen! “

She asked the driver to stop and noisily asked to get out of the bus and call the police.
She identified the young male passenger who was already on the bus when she got on the bus as a thief and dragged him off the bus.

The young man had no choice but to follow the old lady out of the bus so as not to delay the bus. After the bus left, he was about to quarrel with the old lady, but the old lady said first, “Young man! I just saved your life! But I can only save your life! “

She added: “The three passengers who looked like people in the Qing Dynasty were not humans but ghosts. When they came up, I saw that they had no legs under their clothes.”

The next day, the bus was found on its way to the terminal and fell into a ditch beside the road. The driver and conductor on the bus were dead, their heads turned in an abnormal direction, and the bodies were severely decomposed overnight.

No one ever saw the three men in Qing Dynasty clothes again.

Additional information:

There are several versions of the story, and in some of them, the number of the bus is 330 because it is closer to some of the details mentioned in the story. According to a study by Chinese netizens in 2019, the specific text of the story may have been written by Zhang Zhen, a famous horror novelist in China, and its prototype is the “last midnight bus” that exists all over the world.

Chinese famous singer Na Ying once told a similar story on a radio show before 1995, but she didn’t say any specific bus routes at the time. In 1994, the Beijing Evening News also refuted rumors about the “ghost story of the last bus” that existed in Beijing.

Old lady with cat face in Harbin

There is a taboo in ancient Chinese folk customs: don’t let cats near corpses, especially black cats.

Once a black cat crosses a human corpse or coffin, the dead will be resurrected as zombies.

Rumor has it that in 1995, a family quarreled in a small mountain village in northern Heilongjiang, China. The son and his wife quarreled with their mother over a trivial matter and even turned into a fight.

The old woman felt that she was not respected and was very angry and desperate. That night, she hanged herself.

The body of the old woman was so ferocious that her tongue stuck out of her mouth and her eyes were always open with an angry expression. According to local customs, for such people who die of hatred, the closest relatives must pacify them by their side all night before being buried.

But the old woman’s son and wife fell asleep while accompanying the old woman’s body, and a black cat stepped over the old woman’s body. The cat died and the old woman came back to life in the form of a cat-faced zombie. It angrily killed its son and daughter-in-law and then fled from the village.

It is rumored that the cat-faced old lady will hunt children who go out alone at night and then eat them. The belly of the dead will be filled with dead rats.

Additional information:

The cat-faced old lady is one of the four major urban legends in modern China, and its origin is the earliest. It can be traced back to 1924, when the old woman’s body was destroyed by a black cat after her death, she became a zombie and took revenge on her unfilial children angrily. After passing on for generations, the story evolved into a Heilongjiang version.

At that time, some schools in Harbin even warned their students to pay attention to safety. But some Chinese netizens say the story is popular in northeast China because there were many criminals who abducted and trafficked children in the area at that time. They murder children and steal their organs.

The urban legend was filmed in 2016 and released in Chinese mainland.

Zombie Rush in Chengdu

In 1995, Chinese archaeological teams unearthed three ancient bodies near Wuhou Temple in Chengdu.

Due to the lack of tight security at the site, when the archaeological team returned to the archaeological site the next day, three ancient bodies had disappeared.

They thought the bodies had been stolen by tomb robbers, but a few days later, five mummies were found at another place in Chengdu. These five mummies include three previously found.

Then something terrible happened.

The five corpses came back from the dead into zombies, and they bit the living with sharp teeth. Some people died immediately after being bitten, while others slowly lost themselves and became similar walking corpses.

It is rumored that China had used the army and used flamethrowers to suppress everything before the zombies formed a tide.

Additional information:

The story consists of several versions, mainly the source of patient Zero, and here we choose the one that is the most widely circulated.

According to current research by Chinese netizens, the truth of this story may be a tragedy caused by rabies: a farmer in rural Chengdu was infected with rabies. He gradually went crazy, and then bit his own pig, he and the pig soon died. Later, due to the lack of medical knowledge, the farmer’s family turned the dead pig’s meat into food. A few days later, the whole family was infected with rabies and bit the residents of the same village.

Vampires in Shanghai

In the second half of 1995, a laboratory accident occurred in a biology research institute on the outskirts of Shanghai.

A researcher mistakenly ate a germ and infected him with a terrible disease. He must drink the blood of mammals to survive.

The researcher, surnamed Ling, is a top biologist who studied in Germany and received his doctorate. He had such a high reputation in the institute that he used his power to cover up the laboratory accident.

At first, he lived on human blood used for research in the laboratory, but the stock soon ran out. He didn’t want to kill anyone, so he began to eat rat blood. But the blood of the mouse could not fill his appetite, and he began to fall into the madness of hunger.

He began to attack other people but still kept some sense, so he chose to attack women walking alone on the street at night-like vampires in countless novels.

He successfully committed several crimes, which attracted the attention of the local police. When he last appeared in Hongkou Park to attack a woman, long-ambushed police tried to arrest him. But in the process, two policemen were killed. In the end, he was killed by a sniper.

When the police searched his diary afterwards, they found that he had recorded the process of his illness. The second half of the diary became crazy and disturbing. The language of diary writing has gradually changed from Chinese to Hebrew.

Additional information:

The origin of this urban legend is still a mystery, but there is a saying that this story is a re creation of “Zombie Rush in Chengdu” by Shanghai people.

Xidan human flesh stuffed buns

In 1982, China had just reformed and opened up, and its economy was still very weak.

At that time, the average Chinese would not eat meat every day because the price of meat was too expensive. But in Xidan, a well-known commercial street in Beijing, there was a steamed stuffed bun shop whose steamed buns were stuffed with meat, but the price was very cheap.

Because the taste was good and the price was cheap, the business of this shop was very prosperous. This shop sometimes sold three or four hundred meat buns a day. You know, it was only in 1993 that China abolished the grain(and meat) distribution system and allowed grain(and meat) to be traded through the market. Therefore, it was a mystery where the steamed stuffed bun shop got so much cheap meat to make steamed buns in 1982.

The business of the shop was so good that the shopkeeper began to hire people from other places to Beijing as employees. In the early days of reform and opening up, many Chinese went out of their hometown for the first time to try to make money in economically developed areas. Before Shenzhen became a special economic zone, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou were the best choices.

At that time, communications were underdeveloped, and it took a long time for many people who went to work in other cities to write a letter or go home once. Some people died accidentally in other cities, and only a few years later would they be notified in their hometown.

As you might think, the outsiders who worked in this steamed stuffed bun shop were killed and made into meat stuffing and put into steamed buns. This is why the steamed stuffed bun shop can always sell low-cost steamed buns: it recruited outsiders to work, and near the next payday, the manager killed them and sold them as steamed buns.

Local customers and police began to be confused because they had never seen any clerk working in the steamed stuffed bun shop for more than a month. Some customers even complain about eating people’s fingernails in steamed buns. The boss just said: “when making meat stuffing, the shop assistant accidentally cut his fingernails in. I already fired him. “

When the police went to investigate the store, they found half-used bodies in the freezer.

The shopkeeper, who was arrested, said that at first he only mistakenly killed a man who criticized the bad taste of steamed buns and turned human flesh into steamed buns in order to hide the body. But unexpectedly, the first batch of human meat steamed buns sold more than ordinary steamed buns, so he began to turn “human meat steamed buns” into a fixed menu.

Additional information:

According to current research by Chinese netizens, this urban legend is based to some extent on a real and cruel case. In 1982, a cook in Beijing killed two outsiders who came to work in Beijing because of a quarrel. He made the bodies of the two men into meat sauce and gave them to his neighbors.

His neighbor discovered the abnormality of the meat sauce almost immediately and called the police. The killer was arrested that day.

No one ate human flesh in this real case, and the killer was controlled almost immediately.

But in that era of underdeveloped media, the story about this case spread widely among the people and eventually became the version of “human meat steamed buns”. At that time, many Beijingers stopped eating steamed buns because of this urban legend.


You may notice that most of the urban legends we share this time originated in 1995.

In 1994, China had the Internet for the first time, and in the following years, the first batch of Chinese netizens began to use the Internet. But at that time, there was very little Chinese content on the Internet. As a result, China’s early forums, portals and blogs were determined to move popular offline content online, and ghost stories were one of the most popular themes.

Some ghost stories spread from one region to another through the Internet, and then spread locally by word of mouth. And because it was very inconvenient for most people to use the Internet at that time when you saw strange news, there was almost no way to verify whether it was true or false. Therefore, China’s modern urban legends were basically formed in that period.

In 1999, Tianya, once the best-known forum in China, was launched, of which the most active board “Penglai ghost is talking”(蓬莱鬼话) was about ghost story. It had become the main place to record all kinds of horror legends, and most of the five stories shared in this article had become “national” urban legends.

In the future, maybe we will share more interesting Chinese urban legends.

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